Support Staff At Loretto Hospital Set #StrikeforBlackLives Date If Not Contract Agreement Is Reached

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By WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Support workers for a West Side hospital have set a July 20 strike date if they don't have a new contract by then.

About 200 service workers at Austin’s Loretto Hospital - a safety net which has served as a life line to black and brown West Side communities plagued with disproportionate numbers of COVID-19 illnesses and deaths in recent months - plan to walk off their jobs and hold a #StrikeforBlackLives if no contract is reached with the administration of Loretto Hospital.

The service workers, represented by SEIU Healthcare Illinois, include Patient Care Techs, ER techs and mental health staff, and dietary and housekeeping staff.

Emergency room technician Wellington Thomas said management has been bargaining in bad faith on critical issues impacting the safety and well-being of both workers and patients, including poverty-level wages and short staffing. And, Thomas said, the coronavirus pandemic is causing stress among staffers.

"Some people afraid to come to work. Some people just have to work so they could sustain some decent life. And, what we're telling the hospital is, 'Give us a little bit more decent life because we've been dealing with this for a long time,'" Thomas said.

Thomas said wages and short staffing are the two top issues. Thomas said many workers, including him, work two jobs to make ends meet.

According to SEIU Healthcare Illinois, the staff have been in bargaining with Loretto management since December of last year and made the decision to conduct a strike authorization vote when management failed to bargain in good faith with workers, resulting in little to no progress on issues critically impacting the safety and health of workers and the patients for whom they provide care.

WBBM Newsradio has reached out to Loretto Hospital management for comment.